Money laundering is the process of concealing the origins of money obtained illegally by passing it through a complex sequence of banking transfers or commercial transactions.
One problem of criminal activities is accounting for the proceeds without raising the suspicion of law enforcement agencies. Considerable time and effort may be put into strategies which enable the safe use of those proceeds without raising unwanted suspicion. Implementing such strategies is generally called money laundering. After money has been laundered it can be used for legitimate purposes. Law enforcement agencies of many jurisdictions have set up sophisticated systems in an effort to detect suspicious transactions or activities, and many have set up international cooperative arrangements to assist each other in these endeavors.
In a number of legal and regulatory systems, the term “money laundering” has become conflated with other forms of financial and business crime, and is sometimes used more generally to include misuse of the financial system (involving things such as securities, digital currencies, credit cards, and traditional currency), including terrorism financing and evasion of international sanctions. Most anti-money laundering laws openly conflate money laundering (which is concerned with source of funds) with terrorism financing (which is concerned with destination of funds) when regulating the financial system.
Some countries treat obfuscation of sources of money as also constituting money laundering, whether it is intentional or by merely using financial systems or services that do not identify or track sources or destinations. Other countries define money laundering in such a way as to include money from activity that would have been a crime in that country, even if the activity was legal where the actual conduct occurred.